Saturday 17 March 2018

Budget day: it's all about the money, money, money

Minister for Finance and Public Expenditure and Reform Paschal Donohoe. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Minister for Finance and Public Expenditure and Reform Paschal Donohoe. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Darragh McManus

Darragh McManus

'Tis more out of duty than any great anticipation that one follows coverage of the Budget. I presume there are strange, unknowable individuals who genuinely find this stuff exciting. For most of us, though, it's not only dreary, it's nigh-on incomprehensible.

Sure, we understand things like, say: welfare up, USC down, new tax on sugar. But if you honestly can process this sentence without risking an embolism - "Additional €75m of funding for second phase of Local Infrastructure Housing Activation Fund" - you're either fibbing or you're Paschal Donohoe.

Personally, about the only thing that concerns me every year is whether cigarettes will, yet again, be increased in price. Yes, they were. Thanks a lot, Minister. I needed a smoke to calm down after hearing that.

As always, radio did its damnedest to make the Budget feel relevant or interesting. The main talk stations shifted their schedules about, to report on and discuss Donohoe's proposals. (Was the announcement earlier than usual this year, incidentally?)

And they made a decent effort to switch it up a bit. The Pat Kenny Show (Newstalk, Mon-Fri 9am) asked primary school students what they thought of the Budget, which was fun and very cute. On Morning Ireland (Radio 1, Mon-Fri 7am), Cian McCormack made a road-trip from Dublin to Galway, getting Budgetary thoughts and wish lists, which gave a good insight into what concerns ordinary people outside the media/political bubble.

Ultimately, though, it's the same old ding-dong every year: politicians and vested interests defending or attacking the Budget, money-doctors explaining precisely how it will affect "your pocket", and so on.

And Budget 2018 was even less exciting than usual, because there doesn't seem to be that much to give out about. As Jonathan Healy, chairing a mid-afternoon special on Newstalk, said: "It's been bloody hard for us to find fault with this Budget."

The most gobsmacking bit of financial skinny, as it happened, came the day before. Drivetime (Radio 1, Mon-Fri 4.30pm) told us some student accommodation in Dublin costs ten grand a year. Ten grand! Every year!

In fairness, these aren't the flea-riddled, rat-colonised, mould-infected kips, where you had to share a toilet - and all your beer and fags - with Son of Sam who lived in the bedsit across the way, which many of us remember so fondly from our halcyon days.

These flashy new digs have - deep breath - games pods with "the latest Xbox and PS4", pool table and table tennis areas, an arcade room "with all the classic games", a cinema room, gym area and en-suite bathroom with "demisting mirrors", whatever those are. There might have been some mention of a study area, too, he added sarcastically.

Not that I'm insisting students spend all day and night with their noses in books. Sure wasting time is 90pc of the whole point of going to college… and that's what pubs are for.

There you can socialise with peers and strangers alike, discuss philosophy, and even play games and watch movies, if it's one of those annoying ones filled with screens. You might even discuss the Budget, if really stuck.

Finally, a quick and belated shout-out to The ART of Television, recently aired on Near FM. Written and directed by Gareth Stack, starring radio-comedy legend Roger Gregg, this was about a TV producer in 1960s Ireland who tries to ruin his own show in protest - and inadvertently makes it a hit.

Not all the gags landed a direct hit, and an hour is too long for comedies. But The ART of Television was often laugh-aloud funny, and most importantly - much different to what we normally hear. More like this, commissioners.

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